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Companies Use Personality Tests to Understand Their Employees

Employers are finding that personality tests — how their team thinks and feels — are becoming more useful than ever. But are they ethical?


Key Takeaways

  • Around 80% of Fortune 500 companies are using personality tests to understand their employees better — but they don’t give you the whole picture.
  • There are several benefits personality tests can offer when it comes to.


Do complex and novel ideas excite you more than simple and straightforward ones? Are your living and working spaces clean and organized? Do you find the idea of networking or promoting yourself to strangers very daunting?

These are just some of the questions you’ll face in the Myers-Briggs personality test. Spend 30 minutes and you’ll slot into one of 16 personality categories, identified by four letters. These letters spell out your Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality type, giving you insights into how you view the world, make choices and connect with others.

Now, you’ve likely heard of this test. If not, you might have come across other popular ones like the Caliper Profile or The Enneagram. According to Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a psychology professor and author of the book I, Human, personality testing is a $2 billion industry and still growing.

These tests aren’t just for fun anymore, either. They’re showing up in the workplace, helping companies understand their employees better. They’re all about figuring out who’s in the office, what makes them tick and how to bring out their best.

But are personality tests a good solution for understanding and optimizing workplace dynamics? But do these tests really nail workplace dynamics? Do they capture the full spectrum of human behavior, or do they sometimes miss the mark? Let’s explore.


Benefits of using personality tests at work

Deloitte reports that around 80% of Fortune 500 companies are using personality tests to understand their employees better. But why the widespread adoption? If these tests were completely unethical, would so many leading companies be on board? It’s clear there’s something valuable driving this trend, so let’s talk about some of the benefits personality testing can bring:

  • Deepened insight: Personality tests, especially well-researched ones, aren’t just fancy questionnaires. They’re like mirrors, reflecting who we are and shedding light on your teammates’ quirks, too. Understanding yourself and others can do wonders when it comes to working well with others and smashing team conflicts.
  • Championing diversity: Let’s ditch the cookie-cutter teams, shall we? Personality tests help us see beyond CVs and job titles, celebrating the beautiful varied amount of talents and perspectives within your team. Because let’s face it, a team of clones is boring. But a team with a number of different skills and backgrounds? Now, that’s where innovation thrives.
  • Tackling team tension: Nobody wants to have conflicts in the workplace. If you’re finding that workplace drama is as common as Monday morning coffee runs, then personality tests may be for you. Understanding how people think and feel can nip issues in the bud, paving the way for a workplace where conflict takes a back seat and productivity wins.


Limitations of using personality tests at work

If you’re anything like me, then you’ve taken some of these tests more than once. I found that the results varied a little every time I took the test, and it’s likely the same could happen to you. That’s because your personality can absolutely change. In fact, lead researcher and psychologist Sanjay Srivastava, who published her findings in the APA, found that your personality is fluid and can develop over time.

Now, where does this become a problem for employers? Well, if you’re an employer relying too heavily on these personality tests to make hiring decisions or manage your team and these results turn out to not be as consistent or accurate as you thought, it could lead to some serious mismatches. You might hire someone based on a personality type that doesn’t really reflect who they are anymore. Or worse, you could pigeonhole employees into roles or teams that really don’t suit their evolving personalities.

Then there’s the risk of stereotyping. Personality tests often categorize people into neat little boxes, and humans are anything but. We’re extremely complex creatures with layers upon layers of traits and behaviors. Relying too heavily on these tests could lead to oversimplification and unfair judgment. The result could be that you’re turning away brilliant people because a test has stereotyped them.

Finally, there’s the matter of social desirability bias that could make the results inaccurate. If you’re not sure what this is, it’s essentially when someone will consciously or unconsciously respond to questions in a way that they believe will cast them in a favorable light. For example, if you were doing a test for a role that you know needs someone to be organized, dependable and agreeable, you’re probably not going to answer questions in a way that makes you seem disorganized or disagreeable. This can skew the results of personality tests, painting a rosier (or gloomier) picture than reality.


Best practices for using personality tests ethically

You now know the perks and the pitfalls of using personality tests at your company. If you’re still really interested in implementing them, here’s how you can do this ethically:

Don’t use personality tests pre-hire

Before making any hiring decisions, steer clear of using personality tests as the be-all and end-all. Sure, they offer some insights, but they’re not the whole picture. Instead, use a combination of assessment methods, including interviews, work samples and reference checks, to evaluate candidates’ suitability for the role.

Recognize your team as more than their traits

To avoid any bias or stereotyping that could occur with these personality tests, you need to understand that your team is more than just a bunch of traits on a test. They’re real people with unique experiences and talents. For example, if you find that someone is scoring highly for being more introverted, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be bad at public speaking. If someone’s results show they’re extremely detail-oriented, they could still overlook things sometimes and make those little mistakes. It’s important to approach personality test results with an open mind and consider them as just one aspect of each team member’s overall capabilities and potential.

Regularly evaluate their effectiveness

Like anything else, it’s good to give personality tests a check-up every now and then. Are they helping your team thrive, or are they causing more headaches than they’re worth? Keep an eye on their effectiveness, and don’t be afraid to stop using them altogether if you find that the latter is occurring more often.


Personality tests should be a tool, not a solution

Personality tests can be really great at giving insight into your employees’ minds, behaviors and preferences. You can use them for enriching learning and development and bettering workplace relationships. But as helpful as they are, these tests are only a small part of the complete performance management process.

While employee personality fits are super important, there’s so much more to building a company where everyone can improve and advance. Test results alone aren’t good enough to figure out whether or not a person will be a good fit to your company.

So let’s view personality tests for what they are: valuable tools, but not the ultimate solution. By using them judiciously along with other methods and strategies, we help to support your teams’ success and growth.



Article by Lissele Pratt for Entrepreneur.

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